Unashamed Ford man Mark Larkham says he is “feeling the hurt that everyone else is” over the demise of the blue oval’s traditional rival in Australia in Holden.
General Motors’ decision to retire the marque and cease sales of Holden means that one half of the partisan dynamic which laid the foundations for what became known as Supercars will soon be no more.
Larkham raced Falcons as a driver and team owner/manager for over a decade in the Australian Touring Car Championship/Supercars, and has made no secret of his allegiances even as a television pundit on Fox Sports.
However, the loss of Holden has also hit him hard.
“Believe it or not, as a dyed-in-the-wool Ford guy, I’m probably hurting as much as anyone, because Holden’s been not 50 percent of our motorsport action and contribution over the years; it’s been probably more like 70 percent,” Larkham told Speedcafe.com.
“Hand on heart – and I don’t like saying this – but for many, many years, even as a Ford competitor, I looked on with great envy as to the way that Holden did it, the way their Holden motorsport department ran, the way it was funded, the continuity of support, the level of support, and the technical support.
“That’s not to take anything away from what Ford did; it’s just fact that Holden did it better and that was recognised in the results that they achieved.”
Larkham revealed his own history with Holden road cars and said that the impact would be felt not only in motorsport, but Australian culture more generally.
“Remember, guys like Crompo (Neil Crompton) and I, we lived through that really healthy, hard red Holden Racing Team period of success and domination,” observed the 1999 Bathurst 1000 pole-sitter.
“I would add that, funny being a Ford guy – because my dad was a Ford guy – but my first car, my second car, my third car, my fourth car (were) Holdens; HT, EH, FC.
“It’s part of our culture; it’s part of our DNA.
“Don’t kid yourself, just because I rushed to Ford, I’m not feeling the hurt that everyone else is.”
Despite the sadness around Holden, Larkham hopes that a Ford versus General Motors rivalry might persist some form, potentially involving the Chevrolet Camaro.
Asked how 2021, when Holden no longer sells cars, or 2022, when Gen3 regulations are set to take effect in the Supercars Championship, would feel, he responded, “I guess it depends on what unravels, doesn’t it?
“In life, you can look at things in two ways. I think there’ll be a sad period, but we’ve got to see this as an opportunity.
“The reality is, the cultural impact is probably the thing that will be lost most because everything we’ve done and do is around red versus blue.
“Now, if there’s a way that that can continue in some format, ie Camaro or whatever, let’s wait and see.
“I’m not privy to what the plans are going forward – probably no one actually knows what they are right now – but let’s hope it can continue in some…
“I mean, think about it, we kind of started back with Camaro racing Mustang. It wouldn’t be such a bad thing.”
General Motors could retain a presence in the marketplace through a new ‘GM Specialty Vehicles’ brand, although planning is only in its very initial stages if Monday’s Holden press conference is any indication.
The Camaro is currently imported to Australia and converted for right-hand drive by the Walkinshaws’ Holden Special Vehicles business, and reports which surfaced of the Chevrolet hero car’s own demise in coming years have not been confirmed.
Meanwhile, Roland Dane, whose Triple Eight Race Engineering organisation is currently Holden’s homologation and factory racing team, is meeting with GM this week to discuss the implication of the decision.